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10 essential tips for your company’s web design project

By Joe Griffin | VentureBeat

wireframe website prototypeJoe Griffin has served as the co-founder and CEO at iAcquire, a digital marketing firm, since 2008.

Re-launching a website is a massive, multi-layered task for any business.

You have make decisions not only about design and branding — a re-launch requires a seemingly endless checklist of tasks: benchmarking, content strategy, audience research, SEO, back-end hosting … the list goes on. Plus, as a business every decision is hinged on ROI: What impact will the remodeled website have on your business’ traffic, engagement, and conversion?

Your business’s flaws and weak links are often exposed when it comes time to reinvigorate your web presence.

Whether this comes in tandem with an organizational restructure, a change in services or products, a reinvigorated brand strategy, or simply after realizing that your current website is not converting customers at the level you’d like, every business should re-convene on their web strategy at least every few years.

I co-founded iAcquire, a NYC and Phoenix-based digital marketing agency, and recently re-launched our agency site to reflect our evolution as an industry and as an agency. As a 15-year veteran of the digital marketing world and a captain of our agency’s recent remodel, I have gathered years of insight into necessities of a website relaunch.

These tips can serve as a blueprint, checklist, and guide for your enterprise’s future website remodeling plans.

1. Get everyone on the same page

Talk to each and every stakeholder about the impending re-launch. Meet with colleagues (within your department and cross-functionally), shareholders, clients, board members, industry mentors, and other key parties as you embark on your re-launch planning.

Ask each group similar questions:

  • What is missing?
  • What do you like about the current site?
  • Do you think it’s the right time to re-launch?
  • Do we have the capacity to do this as a company?
  • Do you think we will come out better afterwards?
  • Do we want a re-skin, which impacts the overall design aesthetic of the website, or a re-launch, a total overhaul?

Answering these questions early on – and getting buy in and feedback from all parties — will help you in the long run. When relaunching iAcquire.com, for example, multiple departments within our agency combined forces to create a vision for the website. Doing this helped us define scope, high-level direction, budget, requirements, and most importantly goals — all essential for the beginning strategy documents of a website redesign.

2. Allocate a budget and bandwidth

Your overall budget for your website redesign will frame your bandwidth. If your budget is in the tens of thousands of dollars, you have the budget to utilize a big agency to create a new website for your enterprise. If your budget is smaller ($7,500-$15,000) you may be able to utilize outside help on a consulting basis.

Either way, a large chunk of change will be needed for a website redesign. Hosting isn’t free either, so even if you do everything in-house you’ll need a budget.

Also, consider the project scope and if your in-house team has the capacity to complete such a large-scale project. Creative, content, promotion, SEO, and developers will all need to commit a large part of their workload to the project. For example, our marketing and strategy team dedicated a good solid three month to the project.

CEOs, CFOs, CMOs, and legal need to be engaged from the beginning as well. And project status should be communicated at least one time per week to high-level stakeholders.

3. Ensure benchmarks are in place

Create benchmarking documents to track the current website’s design and content, layout, as well as audience targeting and current website analytics (visitor interaction and conversion) so you can accurately measure success after the new site launches. Define your current and future KPIs and keep track of them. Keep in mind that these may change as your organization grows, so be inclusive and collect as much as you can.

For iAcquire, we use the following key performance indicators:

  • Leads
  • Time on site
  • Share of voice
  • Number of links
  • Organic search rankings
  • Impressions
  • Traffic

4. Define or redefine your key audience personas

Consumers are getting savvier and savvier by the minute and modern technology allows users to tune out various messages. With that being said, it is crucial to craft your remodeled website around your converting, engaged personas.

Once you define audience personas, you can better direct:

  • The tone of the copy
  • The website’s overall design/look
  • What type of content (images, copy, videos) resonates best
  • Calls to action – where the are placed, what copy to use, user path

Creating audience personas helps all creative, content, and allows marketing stakeholders to maintain uniformity. Leverage audience market data, survey results, and need states to create personas and user stories. Use this template and create your own three to five personas. Utilize market research tools like Experian, Nielsen, Facebook data, and even Google Analytics to get to the core of your visitor base.

5. Plan as much as you execute

Draft a creative brief that includes all project requirements – from copy and SEO to technical hosting and color scheme requirements. This brief will serve as the blueprint for all parties working on the redesign.  The plan can be as long as 30 pages, though the length is not important; the content is the important part. If it helps you, then delegate specific sections to different leaders within your team. Come together and review the plan, and then from there start executing your strategy.

6. Consider your copy

A shiny, well-designed site is great, but like your looks it’s the first thing to go with age. If your content isn’t great, neither is your site. And it’s not just about well-written prose; it all has to be planned out, persona-driven content, created by understanding your key audiences and how they behave online. Develop a roadmap for content strategy and your copy will fall into place.

Within iAcquire, we know that governance and establishing an editorial calendar is just as important as setting up the content framework. Without structural guidance organizations can fall into content paralysis. These processes defines the players, topics, and requirements necessary to curate and publish content.

7. Keep the bot in mind

Within your re-launch two key “audiences” need to be kept in mind: your visitors and the search engine spiders. Search engines have a very detailed algorithm for ranking pages, and with your re-launch you want to make sure that you stay even or above in your rankings. Here are three key considerations you should have for SEO:

  • Redirects
    If specific URLs are no longer active, or you are changing the site architecture, make sure 301s redirects are in place. Non-existent redirects can lead to a “docked” search position.
  • Conversion end-points
    Your re-designed website will probably not have the same conversion funnel or path as your last site, so make sure someone is dedicated to checking the conversion points on your redesigned sites to make sure they are a) working, b) properly migrated, and c) tracked.
  • On-page keyword analysis
    Target two to three keywords per page and intertwine them organically throughout the copy and metadata. If your organization previously targeted a list of keywords, look at them again as competition and volume changes from year to year and even month to month.

8. Who’s your host?

Consider where you are going to host your site.

Is it going to sit on a server that your enterprise owns and maintains, or will it live with a hosting company? Is your hosting bandwidth enough? Consider what frameworks you will use on the front end, and what Javascript libraries you will use, such as MooTools or jQuery. PHP, .Net, or Rails? WordPress or Drupal?

All of these decisions need to be made early on.

9. Utilize Google Webmaster Tools

Once your website is in development, have your organization set up a Google account (if you don’t already have one) and get acquainted with Google Webmaster Tools. This free Google tool can tell you any problems with site/page indexing and even click-through rates. If the content is being rearranged on your new site, it could be buried deeper, making it harder for search engines to crawl, which leads to a non-indexed area.

10. Strategize a post-launch plan

Your job isn’t over when your redesigned site launches. Create a plan to promote the new site on social media, PR outreach, and blog announcements. Plan on pushing marketing messages through these channels for at least two weeks past the launch. Connect with key influencers on social who can push your message further.

Then create a plan to organize, develop, curate, and publish new content so you keep luring new visitors in: inbound marketing at its finest. On an internal communications front, make sure that your organization is kept in the loop as well. Inform all departments of the re-launch. Be clear on what has changed and how they can utilize your “2.0” or “3.0″ website to optimally conduct their respective jobs.

While every organization has needs, adopting a process is a crucial element. Use this list as a guide, and customize it to meet your organization’s unique challenges, and develop a website that reflects your company in a way that is beneficial to you and your customer.

Joe Griffin has served as the co-founder and CEO at iAcquire, a digital marketing firm, since 2008. Prior to founding iAcquire, Joe co-founded SubmitAWebsite.com, which was acquired by Web.com, and before that he spent three years with iCrossing, where he led business development and later their paid search division. Joe writes at joegriffin.me and the iAcquire blog, tweets at @joegriffin, and lives on Google+.

photo credit: baldiri via photopin cc


Filed under: Business, Dev, Entrepreneur

This article originally appeared on VentureBeat